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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Life of Rice, written by Richard Sobol. Candlewick, Random House. 2010. $21.00 ages 7 and up

"Children dove into the dirt first, carefully sifting and picking out every seed. Their smiles grew larger with each "royal" seed that they uncovered. Within a few minutes, all the seeds had been gathered, and then the dirt itself was scooped up and carefully placed in bags to bring home."

Millions of people the world over consider rice their major food source. Thus, it is a valuable and necessary crop. Richard Sobol invites young readers along on a photographic journey to Thailand so that they might see, virtually first hand, the 'life of rice' through his camera lens. 
He takes us to the rice paddies where ceremonies celebrate the planting of the rice seeds. It takes people, animals and machines to get the crop in the ground, to tend it, to harvest it. When all of that is done, the work is not yet complete. Before it can be sent to markets and distributors it must first be dried and then put in bags for purchase. It is a labor intensive process...even the stalks that remain following harvest are recycled to feed animals.

Here are a few of the interesting facts that he includes: there are 40,000 varieties grown, it is the staple of more than half the world's people, and 600 million tons are grown each year. Amazing!

Donald Sobol carefully balances photographs with text, making this book accessible to many. He adds Rice Facts, a glossary of needed terms, and even a list of rice holidays celebrated throughout the time it takes for rice to go from seed to table. And if that isn't enough to satisfy a child's curiosity about rice, he offers online sites and other sources for further learning.

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